Before heading to L.A. and a life directing vapid tv shows (BRADY BUNCH; CHARLIE’S ANGELS); Brooklyn-born Allen Baron somehow managed to write, direct & take the lead in this sharp, micro-budgeted crime pic. Often lumped with early John Cassevettes, the film is a better match with the earlier streetwise films of Morris Engel, like LITTLE FUGITIVE/’53, in both location work & indie manners; its ‘60s Yuletide street scenes nicely caught by producer/lenser Merrill Brody. And hardly a trace of Cassevettes’ house-style Method Acting Exercising from the semi-pro cast. Baron, looking like a junior George C. Scott, plays a Cleveland-based hitman on a job in Manhattan taking out a mid-level mob guy. But casing the joint leaves him too much free time and he runs into an old school pal from orphanage days; and worse, the guy’s sister he once had a crush on. It throws him off his professional routine. A bit thin, even at 80 minutes, Baron piles on pulpy authorial narration as filler, and it’s pretty ripe stuff.* But the film has something good going on most of the time, and a tasty jazz score to carry you to the next downbeat location when it doesn’t.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID/DOUBLE-BILL: *Narration read by an uncredited Lionel Stander and written by Waldo Salt under a pseudonym, both men BlackListed at the time. Salt, working under his own name, would gain an Oscar® working similar territory on MIDNIGHT COWBOY/’69.